Roland M-480 takes center stage at Békéscsaba Jókai Theater

Jokai Theatre

The levels of expectations of an audience when it comes to the quality of sound they will experience when visiting the theater has greatly increased since the advent of 3D cinema and the growth in popularity of surround sound in the home.

The focus until now has been primarily on the viewing experience, and, until recent years, the audio experience has been based on compressed audio, not the full spectrum of sound details that now is standard in cinema and theater soundtracks. The quality of the sound experience has often depended heavily on the quality of the sound system of the theater and where the person sits in the theater.

This is not the case however at Békéscsaba Jókai Theater. This 130 year old theater in the Hungarian suburbs has spent over two years developing a sound reinforcement system that meets the expectation – both in sight and sound – of a modern audience whilst preserving the traditional features of the building. Perhaps not the first place you would expect to find such a ground breaking project – so much so the theater invited representatives from Roland Europe and Japan to visit the theater to see – and hear – for themselves.

The idea to address the issue came from the statistical evidence that when people sit in front of a movie screen they absorb 40% of the different sound effects whilst in a theater this figure drops below 10%. The Békéscsaba Jókai Theater has developed a system that crosses over between cinema and theater sound in the form of a 8.1 channel surround sound system. The sound comes from eight different locations in the theater with the addition of a subwoofer for sound that is not detected by the human ear but adds to the overall audio experience.

The result is a richer, more immersive experience for the audience- and of course there are no bad seats in the house! Working with experts from ES Audio, the theater has been at the forefront of trials for this new technical development. Such has been the success of the system, the theater is now negotiating with several developers and is being hailed as a great showcase for Hungarian innovation.

Imre Kohári, Head of Sound and Lighting at the theater explained "The voice comes from eight different locations and the system is unique in that you are getting a true surround sound experience". The system made its debut at the production of King Lear with critical acclaim.

Jokai Theatre Roland M-480

The Roland M-480 48 channel live digital mixing console was chosen as an integral part of the system at the theater due to its flexibility, superior sound quality and value for money. The processing power of the M-480 combined with the powerful mixing engine provides a 4-band fully parametric EQ, gate, compressor, and delay on each input channel with 214 possible patch points with 90 discreet outputs.

For applications such as the theater where audio time alignment settings are critical, the M-480 is equipped with delays on all mixing channels and outputs buses. High quality and precise sound adjustments can be accomplished by using the built-in real time analyzer. The M-480 also offers an impressive 24 DCA groups increasing mixing effectiveness in larger and more complex applications. The 24 DCAs can all be easily edited and controlled through an easy-to-use DCA management interface.

Director of the theater, Peter Fekete commented, "In a world of multimedia and multiplex cinemas the public are entitled to expect that modern technology is also displayed in the field of theatrical arts. People are used to ‘feeling the sound’ when they go to the cinema and many have surround sound systems in their own homes. Our task is to introduce these technical enhancements to the theater without destroying the direct impact that theater delivers."

Peter Heath, Head of Roland Europe, visited the theater with colleagues from Roland company headquarters in Japan and Roland Central Europe. Commenting on the experience, Heath said, "It felt very inspiring to see the great work that the theater staff are undertaking to make the audience experience more enjoyable."

Manager of Roland East Europe, Janos Kozma added, "The M-480 is a popular console for theater and we feel proud that is has played its part in such an interesting project and putting Hungary ‘on the map’ for innovation in sound design."

Jokai Theatre Performance